UCL congratulates another LoLo PhD success

UCL congratulates another LoLo PhD success
24th June 2015 Alison Parker

stephanie-gauthierEveryone in the LoLo community would like to congratulate Stephanie Gauthier on successfully passing her viva. Stephanie was one of our first cohort of LoLo students joining the UCL Energy Institute in 2009 and has been an excellent ambassador for our Centre for Doctoral Training.
Stephanie’s thesis is entitled “Developing a method to monitor thermal discomfort response variability”. Stephanie tells us more about her project and time at UCL and LoLo. Her dissertation report can be downloaded below.

What was it about?

My research looked to answer the question “What do people do to warm-up when they become too cold?” This simple question is both surprisingly important and surprisingly hard to answer. It is important because about a sixth of all the UK’s energy is used to heat homes. It is hard to answer because most of what people do is done out of habit, and they find it hard to reliably remember these habits and tell us about them. It’s also hard because how cold you feel depends on what you are doing (metabolic rate); what you are wearing (clothing level); and environmental variables such as indoor temperature and air movement. The first two of these are by far the most important but they are also the hardest to measure. My research used social surveys, automated visual diaries, and a range of environmental and wearable sensors to capture people’s daily lives. The picture that is emerging from this research is that people don’t live the way our previous models predicted. They are comfortable in both a much wider range of temperatures, and much lower temperatures, than our models say they should be. They also happy to do things, like make cups of tea, which we don’t usually think of as being to do with warming up. The ultimate aim of this research was (1) to introduce a framework to monitor thermal discomfort responses that incorporates a wider range of observed behaviours, (2) to demonstrate the efficacy of multi-method observational approaches, and (3) to highlight the need for researchers working in this field not to fall into the gap between what people say and what people do.

What were the highlights of LoLo?

Having worked in architectural and engineering consultancies for over eight years, I was interested in researching the relationship between design targets and energy demand in the built environment, specifically thermal comfort. The LoLo centre allowed me to develop my own research project, which is quite unusual. Also the centre has been very supportive toward carrying out socio-technical research, in particular in developing my own set of methods and associated sensors. I was given the time to learn how to teach and to research. Another highlight was the range of experiences and backgrounds the students had, from economists, architects, building engineers, physicists to social scientists. We use to meet fortnightly and review our projects; the advices I received from this multidisciplinary meetings were invaluable, it was also a great time to share experiences.

What are you doing now?

After finishing my PhD in Spring 2015, I join the University of Southampton. I am now a lecturer in Energy and Buildings at the Faculty of Engineering & the Environment. I spend about half of my time teaching on MSc courses and the other half carrying out research. I am currently working on a grant application with UCL about socio-technical methods, using digital sensors to support interdisciplinary research in social sciences. The collaboration with the LoLo centre never stops! As the LoLo network grows, I look forward to future collaborations with LoLo alumni.

Stephanie’s LoLo profile